Facebook Has Lost Some Friends

Why do Tech companies get “unfriended” when they go astray?

The world is all about people and the list of former Facebook executives who have spoken up about Facebook is growing in 2019.

Not to throw shade on Facebook per se, but an alarmingly high number of former Facebook insiders have turned into some of its harshest critics. In this article we’ll try to make a brief rundown.

Okay, maybe not so brief.

I mean like right off the bat some funny ones come to mind. Off the top of my head I’m thinking of Sean Parker, Chamath Palihapitiya and Alex Stamos.

It was amusing to read in the NYT about Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes last week, calling on regulators to break up the company. It’s weird to watch, it’s hard to know what to make of it all.

In a growing list of important founders, Hughes is the latest but hardly the first former Facebook executive to criticize the company. When Chris Cox left, I feel something of the soul left Facebook. But who am I to judge?

Facebook is adored by two billion people, apparently.

“Facebook Friends” are Speaking Up

Chris Hughes

Sean Parker

Chamath Palihapitiya

The reversal on how Facebook is being perceived is a colossal indication the internet is going through some growing pains.

  • Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, told people to “delete Facebook.”

One of Facebook’s smartest decisions was to acquire WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014. Sadly Brian Acton and Jan Koum, who are privacy-obsessed characters, inevitably clashed with an acquirer whose entire business was making money via the mass collection of people’s information. Now Facebook is merging WhatsApp chat with Messenger in a centralized system.

  • Roger McNamee mentored Mark Zuckerberg and then wrote a book about how terrible Facebook is.

Oddly before the Cambridge Analytica data scandal broke, McNamee went on the warpath, accusing his former protégé and Facebook in newspaper op-eds of becoming “toxic”.

  • Leah Pearlman, the co-inventor of the ‘like’ button, is haunted by “Black Mirror.”

Pearlman is a former manager at Facebook and now an illustrator. She developed the concept for what became the “like” button on Facebook, eventually working with then coworker Justin Rosenstein and other employees to bring it to life. Tragically, Pearlman said she was haunted by a “Black Mirror” episode where people’s social credibility hinges on a peer-to-peer ratings system. (Leah, you are not the only one!).

  • Chamath Palihapitiya worried about the effect of constant dopamine hits provided by the social network.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion.”
  • Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom, resigned abruptly from Facebook six years after its acquisition.

Systrom hinted in onstage interviews that things hadn’t necessarily ended well. “No one ever leaves a job because everything’s awesome, right?” Chris Cox says he had “artistic differences” with Mark Zuckerberg, which is a bit of a funny way to put it.

Suffice to say it’s lonely at the top, when you are a CEO with unprecedented power over one of the most flagrant monopolies the internet has ever known. A platform that has arguably caused serious damage to the future of how the internet will be monetized and the future of the media, journalism, apps and advertising’s impact on our attention, productivity and mental health.

In spite of a growing list of really key people who have turned their backs on Facebook, stricter regulation of Facebook and social platforms or tech companies does not appear to be imminent.